PHOENIX — Tyler Skaggs gave the Diamondbacks exactly what they needed Friday night.
With the D-backs’ bullpen running on fumes and the starting rotation having scuffled for the better part of a month, Skaggs stepped into the breach with the best outing of his young career in a 5-0 victory over the Rockies.
On the day he was recalled from Class AAA Reno, the young left-hander showed he had a place in the D-backs’ rotation by giving up three hits and a walk in eight shutout innings. The Rockies did not get a runner as far as second base, and one of their hits was an infield single.
“A very dominant performance,” manager Kirk Gibson said.
The key, Skaggs said, was an ability to pitch to both sides of the plate with his fastball and to complement that with the curveball that major league scouts always have appreciated. His developing changeup is a third plus pitch.
“Throwing fastballs for strikes inside and getting ahead in the count. Strike one is the biggest pitch in baseball,” Skaggs said, addressing the media afterward with his “Prescott Fire Dept.” cap firmly in place.
It could not have come at a better time.
D-backs pitchers made 24 appearances in a four-game series against the Mets, and Gibson was forced to use nine pitchers in the 5-4, 15-inning victory in the getaway game Thursday afternoon. Shortstop Cliff Pennington was the next mound option.
Since Wade Miley beat the Cardinals on June 5, Randall Delgado and Skaggs are the only two starters with victories in the last 26 games. The starters are 0-10 in that stretch, and in their quality starts, it seemed as if the offense either did not score or scored late. The D-backs’ rotation has been in flux, too, with an early injury to Brandon McCarthy, a later one to Trevor Cahill and a 10-game suspension to Ian Kennedy along the way.
This time, Skaggs made the early run production — a run in the first and two in the third — stand up. Paul Goldschmidt and Aaron Hill had two hits and two RBIs each, and A.J. Pollock had two hits and scored three times.
Colorado was impressed.
“He reminded me of Barry Zito when he was with Oakland,” said Michael Cuddyer, who had one of the Rockies’ three hits. “He had a two-seamer (fastball) away, and then in the middle innings he started throwing that curveball, which is a plus, plus curveball. It was very reminiscent of Zito in Oakland.
Added Rockies manager Walt Weiss, “He worked both sides of the plate with his fastball. A good breaking ball; we gave up on some breaking balls. It had some depth to it. We just struggled getting anything going offensively.”
Skaggs (2-1) has been mentioned as a potential trade candidate in an deadline deal to land a veteran such as Yovani Gallardo or Jeff Samardizja, but he pitched like a long-term keeper Friday.
D-backs general manager Kevin Towers spoke to Skaggs when he was in Reno recently, and while the exact message is not known, it seems clear that Towers talked about throwing strikes, getting ahead and Skaggs showing trust in his stuf.
Skaggs responded with a 13-strikeout game in his last outing at Reno, when he gave up four hits in 8 1/3 innings of a 1-0 victory over Sacramento on June 29.
“I wouldn’t say the approach is different. I just felt more comfortable out there. All my stuff was working,” Skaggs said.
The D-backs will need one more start out of Cahill’s spot before the All-Star break if they stay in rotation, and despite the evidence, Gibson said that spot will remain “TBD” — to be determined.
That is OK with Skaggs, who will turn 22 on July 13.
“I’m just enjoying my days up here. Going day-to-day. To be up here this early is a dream come true.”